Susan Cooper, |
Sam Robbins is an 11-year-old ship's boy, forced from his home in England when he and his uncle are pressed into service in His Majesty's Navy in 1803. Sara Jennings is an 11-year-old girl, forced from her home in England when her mother remarries and moves the family to Connecticut in 2006.
Years and miles apart, the two youngsters share a bond, woven into the cloth of a tiny fragment from the flag that once flew over HMS Victory, the flagship of Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar, and was draped over Nelson's casket at his funeral. Sam saved it and years later passed the treasured possession on to his daughter; Sara found it hidden in an old copy of Robert Southey's The Life of Nelson, purchased at a bookstore on the Connecticut coast.
The two children's lives couldn't be more different, yet author Susan Cooper weaves them together with the expert touch of a seasoned writer, best known for her landmark The Dark is Rising series. Cooper's research is impeccable; although Sara is an entirely fictional creation and Sam was nothing more than a name on a ship's register, Cooper has turned them into real, three-dimensional characters who feel, and consequently make readers feel, too.
Cooper's work is always readable and entertaining, but Victory is a step above her earlier works. Seasoning her story heavily with history from the exciting days of Nelson's Navy, there's enough detail about life aboard a naval flagship to make readers feel the wood beneath their feet, hear the wind in the rigging and knock their bread against the table, for fear of weevils. The juxtapositioning of Sam's and Sara's narratives -- Sam's in first-person past, Sara's in third-person present -- is completely natural, flowing easily across centuries as their stories unfold.
Written for young-adult readers, adults will find themselves equally captivated by this delightful novel. It is, indeed, a victory for Cooper.
by Tom Knapp